Life-threatening bacteria emerges at Norfolk’s hospitals for the first time in several years

Cases of MRSA have occured at Norfolk's hospitals. Photo: Tim Ireland/PA Wire

Cases of MRSA have occured at Norfolk's hospitals. Photo: Tim Ireland/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Investigations have been carried out after three patients contracted a life-threatening 'superbug' while being treated at Norfolk's acute hospitals.

Statistics reveal one patient at each of the Norfolk and Norwich (NNUH), James Paget (JPH), Queen Elizabeth (QEH) hospital trusts contracted MRSA on wards during 2015/16.

MRSA is a bacteria that can cause potentially deadly infections.

There was a second case of MRSA at the NNUH, after a blood sample became contaminated with the bug – which led to a false positive test for MRSA for the patient who had given the sample.

It comes as national charity MRSA Action UK warns there is an increase in MRSA cases, which has coincided with the abolition of mandatory MRSA screening for all patients admitted to hospitals.

The incidents will disappoint Norfolk's hospital chiefs, with the NNUH having gone four years, the JPH three years, and QEH nearly two years without MRSA cases.

The NHS has a 'zero tolerance' for MRSA and hospitals can be fined £10,000 for breaching the requirement, although it is up to local health chiefs in the clinical commissioning groups to impose the fine.

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A spokesman for the NNUH said 'human error' had caused a patient to contract MRSA last year.

He said it was caused by 'the presence of a device which, due to human error, had not generated the correct paperwork to make sure this device was followed up in line with trust policy'.

'Changes have been made by introducing an electronic reminder to prevent this happening in future.'

The patient was treated with antibiotics and was subsequently discharged.

The second incident at the trust occurred when a patient's blood sample became contaminated at the time of collection, which led to a false positive result when it was tested.

It caused no harm to the patient but was judged a 'poor collection technique', the spokesman said.

Refresher blood collecting training was given to staff as a result.

The spokesman said the trust had achieved the 'zero target' for the previous four years implementing a 'more comprehensive 'seek and distroy' policy within its nine-point strategy in 2011.

'This included an introduction of universal emergency admission screening, universal antiseptic washes for all suspected/known MRSA patients and patients in high risk specialties.

'An MRSA electronic board containing all MRSA patients is reviewed daily, and there is seven-days-a-week MRSA reporting by the microbiology lab.

The trust also relaunched 'blood culture collection training' and 'aseptic non-touch technique' – and continued with pre-admission screening and treatment for non-emergency patients admitted to the hospital, the spokesman said.

Meanwhile the patient affected by MRSA at QEH died, but not because of the superbug, a spokesman said.

Measures taken to avoid MRSA outbreaks included re-education on patient screening, improved communication between clinical areas, and ensuring there were high standards of infection prevention and control.

The JPH did not respond to the EDP's questions.

Have you contracted MRSA while in hospital? Email

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